by Clyde Boswell
Back about 1999 I was given the opportunity to make a trip with some fellow Southern Baptists to a foreign country. I was very excited about being able to spread the Christian Gospel all the way on the other side of the world. We went to the Ukraine, where we were only about 200 miles south of the atomic plant that blew up in a place called Chernobyl.
We flew from Jackson, Mississippi, to the Ukraine; believe me, that is a very long flight. I had been able to see almost all of the world while I was in the Air Force--except the former USSR. Well, going through customs in a formerly communist country is scary. We were thousands of miles from home, and Southern Baptist missionaries are not the most liked tourist people that come to this part of the world.
We made camp (so to speak) in a town (population around 35,000) called KA TOSK. Of course, when we got there the first thing we were told was “do not drink the water.” They didn’t have to worry about me--I was prepared to starve if I had to. But actually, we went there very well prepared for the ban on water.
Folks, you would not believe our motel accommodations. This wasn’t a five-star, Tom Bodet, “we will leave the light on for you.” Mattresses were thin as pancakes, lying between four posts and on top of a piece of wood. There was no heat and no hot water.
We bought a small metal rod to heat cups of water. We were also able to run our sink full of water, heat the water and sponge bathe.
I should not even mention the toilet facilities. Well, most places had a hole in the middle of the floor--you could squat and do your thing. Strange, I always wanted to flush those toilets. Oh, well.
The motel we stayed in either belonged to the Russian Mafia or the KGB. Every night there were at least two or three new Audi cars that came to our motel loaded with men dressed in solid black. They even had their black sunglasses on. We figured they were watching us to keep us out of trouble or to see that we did not start any.
We traveled through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. This area that was under communist rule for so many years is, we were told, the most fertile soil in all the world. Top soil is six or seven feet deep. This is some of the richest farming land in the world, and the people are starving to death. Unemployment was like 36% when we were there. There is no modern farm equipment. Most of the tractors still roll on old steel tires. Sugar beets are their main farming crop.
Even though the Ukraine is no longer under the authority of the fallen USSR, you can still feel the thumb of Moscow on the heads of the people. The people are great folks, but they are living probably thirty years behind us in the western world. Many of them, therefore, are looking for a free trip to the USA. Many of them think that all Americans are rich. Their favorite question was: “What kind of car do you drive?”
Every building in the Ukraine was painted dull gray. Well, it seemed that way. The presence of Lenin and Stalin is still felt. There were statues of them everywhere we traveled.
As we tried to witness to people, we noticed they were always watching over their shoulders to see if Big Brother was looking at them. But we made a lot of new friends and were even allowed to take our Christian message onto a Russian military base. That had never been done before in that area.
If everyone in the USA could go abroad and see how much of the world lives, our nation would be better off than we are now. Many Christians in these formerly communist countries actually died because of their belief in God. Many faced death or a Siberian labor camp. We in the western world take our freedoms, our privileges, and our standard of living too lightly.
Oh, by the way, the borsch is one of the best things going over in the Ukraine. Borsch is like onion soup. It’s really good.
Clyde Boswell, a native of the Mississippi Delta, is retired from the postal system. He spends his time writing, singing, and enjoying his church and his family.
Write Clyde at this address.
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